The newest batch of episodes of Stranger Thingswhich arrived on Netflix the same day that Obi-Wan Kenobi premiered on Disney+, powered the show to 5.1 billion minutes of US streaming in its first three days, according to Nielsen.
Obi Wan, with shorter and fewer episodes, had a more subdued launch with about 1 billion minutes. Even so, its debut was the biggest ever for Disney+ and it also made history as the first non-film title to hit 1 billion minutes of viewing in its first week. (Marvel series Loki reached that threshold but only after a handful of episodes were in circulation.)
The numbers were captured during the week of May 23 to 29. The series debuted on May 27 in a head-to-head clash at the start of the long Memorial Day weekend, as Top Gun: Maverick was also making its theatrical bow. Nielsen released the figures for the two series today, a departure from its usual rhythm of delivering streaming stats about a month after the fact, and generally on Thursdays. Netflix, which has issued its own weekly top 10 rankings for dozens of countries, had already anointed the latest Stranger Things outing as its biggest English-language series.
The Season 4 rollout for Stranger Things is a staggered one, with the first seven episodes landing in May and the final two hitting the service in July. According to Nielsen, the show is just the third title ever to crack 5 billion weekly viewing minutes, ranking No. 3 after pandemic darlings Tiger Kingwith 5.3 billion, and ozark, with 5.2 billion. Those records were established during the intensity of the early Covid lockdowns in March 2020 as Netflix subscriber levels exploded.
The current Season 4 episodes of Stranger Things accounted for 4 billion of the total 5.1 billion minutes, according to Nielsen.
Even with the split premiere pattern, a notable variation from Netflix’s defining binge-release model, comparing the two series is a complicated process. It is also worth noting that the statistics that matter most in the overall streaming competition are those pertaining to subscriber levels and average revenue per user. In the traditional media era, overnight linear ratings or weekend box office were relied on as universal indicators (limited as they were) of expected financial outcomes. In the streaming age, individual titles matter mostly in terms of whether they motivate customers to sign up for a service or extend their viewing time.
In terms of total minutes available, Stranger Things has 32 episodes from its full run, compared with just the first two for Obi Wan. (Disney has mostly stuck with a more traditional release model of an episode or two at a time, and many of its Marvel and Star Wars spinoffs have more economical running times, another disadvantage in the Nielsen metric of total viewing.
In an effort to come up with a more viable head-to-head comparison, Nielsen isolated the performance of each debut episode of the season on the respective streaming services. (See charts below.) Through that lens, Friday viewing of the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobi saw 4% more viewing than Stranger Things, with 6.2 million total viewers compared with 6 million. (Disney also moved up the time the series went live compared with its usual Friday switch-flipping.)
For the full three-day weekend, however, the first Stranger Things episode outdraw Obi Wan12.7 million viewers to 11.2 million.
Since 2020, Nielsen has been tracking weekly streaming in the US and now monitors five services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu. Other new players like HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount+ are not included in the weekly numbers.
Both Netflix and Disney are hungry for new hits as they do battle in streaming. After two straight soft quarters, including a report in April of its first subscriber loss in more than a decade last April and a bleak outlook for the current quarter, Netflix has seen its stock price lose more than two-thirds of its value. Disney’s shares have also come under pressure despite a massive rebound in its theme park business, with Wall Street taking a newly critical view of streaming.